Luke 7:18-23 (ESV)
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t give a straight answer to John’s question. Instead He points out that John disciples have seen and heard all they need to know. Jesus is using a powerful apologetic technique that’s worth studying. Instead of answering the question, He cites the proof of the answer.
Suppose a policeman asks you, “Were you at the grocery store at 11am yesterday? “No,” may be correct but, “I passed through security at the airport at 10:59,” is a much stronger answer.
Likewise, Jesus’ answer to John’s question is stronger. It also conveys more information. Jesus is filling in just exactly what the one who is to come is like.
Of course, some of this is what John already knows; that’s why Jesus’ answer counts as a yes. But John will also hear exciting details of how the messianic prophesies are being fulfilled. Because Jesus instructed John’s disciples to return with an eyewitness report, a dialogue is sure to occur.
That will be an electric moment for John.
John knew what the messiah would be like because he had done his homework. John knew what the scriptures said. That’s why Christian education is so important to the proper functioning of the church. Knowing the basics prepares people to understand the more advanced (and more exciting) things of the gospel. That’s why churches have Sunday School classes, especially for children.
But his highlights a new and frightening problem for modern churches – many adults coming in don’t know the basics. Some don’t even have the vocabulary. They can’t understand a traditional presentation of the gospel.
Reaching these people means speaking in their terms. Here’s how Paul did it in Athens.
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. – Acts 17:22-25(ESV)
Notice that Paul observed the objects of your worship. That wasn’t easy. We need to follow Paul’s example.
Speak to folks in terms they understand, even if some of those terms are annoying or worse.
The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here: